Players and Fans Revel in Victory

When I was 16, I made the decision to spend my collegiate years at Rutgers in far away New Jersey. At the same time that I was in filling out applications and taking the SATs the Rutgers football team was busy going 0-11. I didn't know that at the time. Maybe if I had I would have gone to Maryland instead.

In the intervening eight years I've received my share of trash talk and disbelief from family and friends, but until now I have had no good comebacks. How could I? As much as I hoped for it, Rutgers was not a good football team. That all changed this Saturday, with a victory of Navy. Rutgers has clinched a winning season for the first time since I was an acne-pocked middle schooler, with no idea that the university even existed.

What an incredible feeling. As the clock ticked down and Devraun Thompson came up with the game clinching interception students started to stream down the aisles towards the retaining walls that would soon be no match for this victory-crazed wave of scarlet clad fans. And I became a drop in that sea. I couldn't help it. After eight years of hope and let down it had to be done.

The players couldn't help it either. Even after the victory a month ago over Pitt the players seemed more relieved than excited as they made their way back to the locker room.

Not this time.

Many players were visibly and vocally excited as they made their way down through the depths of the Hale Center. And that was after ten minutes of helmet pumping and cheering with the Scarlet Sea.

For fifth year senior, and now Rutgers' all time leading receiver Tres Moses the moment was particularly poignant.

"I remember getting booed at," stated a reminiscent Moses. "For us to come from being booed in our own stadium to getting this win is really big."

What I remember is going to a game during my sophomore year against Virginia Tech. Rutgers kept it close for the first quarter, but as usual started to slip. I made a deal with my friends, who were impatient to leave and resume their drinking. I said that we would leave when Rutgers trailed by four touchdowns, expecting that to buy me at least until sometime in the fourth quarter.

By halftime we were on a bus back to Cook.

No more.

Rutgers is a winning program, and it shows on and off the field.

Star running back Brian Leonard put it well when he said, "It's different. The whole atmosphere around Rutgers is different."

On the field, the team has confidence that can only come from winning. With eight minutes remaining, Navy cut the Rutgers lead to 3 points, threatening to take away the magic moment that was building. The offense needed to respond in order to seal the game and according to Moses there was no doubt that they would.

"We were in the huddle and we just looked at each other and said we aren't going off this field without a score."

The best part, of course, is that there are still three games left for the Knights.

Three more games to make a statement to New Jersey and the nation that Rutgers football is no longer a doormat.

Defensive tackle Carl Howard nailed it when he stated, "We're just going to build on this. This makes each game after this more exciting."

Exciting indeed.

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